This is my annual sustainable gift guide, now in its second iteration for 2022. Take it with a grain of salt, because in all my years of blogging, 2021 was the first year I wrote a gift guide. That’s for two reasons: First, I hate giving people things they don’t want or need, or low-quality stuff that will end up in the back of a closet or the bottom of a donation bin.
And second, I hate the over-consumption-promoting media frenzy of everyone telling us what to buy, the obligation to give gifts, and the ensuing waste of money and resources.
I also hate boring, un-researched listicles – that’s why this list is CURATED. All of these gift ideas are products I’ve personally used, from small companies where sustainability is part of the business model. Anything I haven’t used is noted, and I’ve chosen it based on lots of research and the company’s sustainability practices.
Now you know where I stand. If you identify with any of those points, this sustainable gift list might be for you. (And sorry for all the hate – I know it’s probably not in keeping with the spirit of many holidays.)
(Originally published Nov. 15, 2021, I’ve given this sustainable gift guide a full update as of November 2022, with new products, discounts, and company updates.)
The way I see it, if you’re going to buy gifts, you might as well put your gift budget to use supporting small, sustainable companies that are using business to change the world.
And after reviewing lots of sustainable products over the years, I’ve compiled what I consider the most wrapping-paper-worthy ones (or furoshiki-worthy ones), into this list of sustainable gift ideas for your inspiration.
So when you can’t find what you’re looking for from local businesses, these are the next best thing. Most of the small businesses on this list have meaningful sustainability certifications, and ship in minimal, plastic-free packaging.
Table of contents
- Practical, Sustainable Travel Gifts
- Sustainable Clothing Gifts
- Sustainable Foodie Gifts
- Sustainable Beauty & Skincare Gifts
- Sustainable Gifts for the Home (& Pets)
- Impact-Focused Marketplaces for More Sustainable Gift Ideas
Side Note: Sustainable Gift Wrapping
Most wrapping paper is frustratingly not recyclable if it has any hint of plastic or metal. (Sparkles, glitter, sequins, foil, gloss, laminate, velvet, stick-on plastic tags, lots of plastic tape still attached, etc.)
I’ve read that wrapping paper has to pass the “crumple test” to be recyclable – if you crumple it up and it stays in a ball, it’s recyclable (as long as it doesn’t have any of those fancy decos). If it doesn’t hold the shape, it’s not.
Ribbons and bows also generally can’t be recycled. (Same goes for twine, string, and anything else long and stringy that will get caught in recycling machines.)
(All those criteria are probably why the city of Boston, where I live, says to put all gift wrap in the trash. Boston has a search tool to check what we can recycle in the city. If you live in a large-ish city, you probably have a similar website.)
That’s why I look for recycled and recyclable gift wrap.
They also make paper ribbon that’s recycled and should be also recyclable.
Furoshiki – traditional, reusable Japanese gift wrapping clothes – are another great option.
You can find lots of handmade furoshiki here.
To minimize shipments, several of these gift ideas are available from EarthHero, which is one of the most sustainable online retailers.
EarthHero has the trifecta of certifications that I always look for when researching more sustainable brands. (They’re Certified B Corp, a member of 1% For The Planet, and offset all of their carbon emissions – what’s often called being “carbon-neutral.”)
And they ship with plastic-free packaging (recycled paper padding, paper tape, and no slick marketing inserts).
Note: That discount code also helps Earth Hero recognize that Tilted Map sent you to their website, so that I can earn a commission on your purchases at no extra cost to you. This is called an affiliate partnership, and many of the brands below are also affiliate partners of mine. I appreciate your help in supporting this blog – another small, sustainability focused business – by clicking through these links if you choose to shop! – Ketti
Practical, Sustainable Travel Gifts
These are a few gift ideas that an eco-focused traveler would appreciate, but that anyone could get use out of, whether at home or on the road.
1. A Self-Cleaning, Sanitizing Water Bottle
When I first heard about LARQ bottles, I thought they sounded bougie and unnecessary and a little ridiculous. But now I’ve been using mine for more than a year and loving it.
This is the perfect gift for anyone who buys bottled water because “tap water isn’t clean.”
LARQ bottles have a UV-C light in the cap that automatically kills viruses and bacteria in your water, which also improves the taste of some tap water. (And keeps the inside of the bottle from getting stinky.)
(But where it will help with the taste is hard to predict. In my experience, it made a surprisingly big difference in the taste in Northern Italy and in rural Greece. In Boston, not so much. Not sure what that means it killed in my European water, but I guess I’m happy it did.)
LARQ bottles are also high quality and beautiful (stainless-steel coated with a stone-like finish in lots of pretty colors). They’re very well-insulated, so they don’t sweat in your bag and keep drinks cold all day. (There’s also an uninsulated version, for something more lightweight.)
So while they’re not cheap, they could be a useful gift for germophobes (which is now everyone, right?), travelers, people who appreciate sleek, high-tech gadgets, or anyone who never wants to smell another stinky water bottle (or wash the inside of one).
Looking for a more outdoorsy option? The Grayl bottle filters out viruses and bacteria, and also protozoa, particulates (like sediment and microplastics), chemicals, pesticides, and heavy metals. Meaning you can use it to drink fresh water from rivers and streams. (If you’ll be drinking from a tap in a developed country, the LARQ is all you’ll need. I have both, and prefer the LARQ.)
2. Tech Cases Made from Plants
Pela cases come in tons of fun and beautiful designs, and are made of a bio-plastic (flax seed instead of petroleum), which makes them compostable.
These cases fit perfectly, never slip off, the buttons are easy to push, and the lovely, soft texture offers good grip without feeling too sticky.
Note: No matter how sustainable the brand is, this is only a sustainable gift if it’s for someone who doesn’t already have one. Because replacing a plastic item that already exists with a new, non-plastic item is still just creating more waste.
But if you do just want to upgrade a current case, you can use the envelope your Pela case arrives in to send any case back to them. (If it’s one of their plant-based phone cases, they’ll compost it. If it’s another brand, they’ll recycle it.)
My husband has been using the clear Pela case since the end of 2020, and here’s how it looks in November 2021: One year in and still looking pretty new! Now, another year later, at the end of 2022, I’m still loving my bright purple case.
Pela also makes smart watch bands, iPad cases, and Airpod cases from the same plant-based material, and lots of styles of sunglasses. (My husband wears their sunglasses and I also use the Airpod case. Both have been going strong for at least a year.)
And Pela has my trifecta of sustainability check marks, too. (B Corp, carbon-neutral, and 1% For The Planet.)
3. A Portable Solar Panel
This is a big one! My husband and I have been using our 100-watt solar panel in our van for two years now. We use it to charge a battery, which lets us charge our tech on roadtrips. The whole setup is from Jackery, and has proven to be a very worthy investment.
Our battery has two USB ports for charging phones and small devices, and one AC outlet (a normal wall plug), which means we can recharge our computers, too. (This is a big deal when you live in a car for more than a day! They also make smaller, less expensive batteries, but they don’t have that AC outlet.)
But you don’t need a van to make good use of a solar panel.
People use these solar panels as emergency back-ups in case of power outages, or on camping trips. You can use it at home, too, instead of your wall plugs.
You can also use the solar panel without the battery, and charge your devices directly from the sun, by plugging them straight into one of the USB ports on the back of the panel. (But since the output is only 5 volts, it wouldn’t be useful for much else.)
(And for serious emergency use, Jackery also makes really big batteries that can even power major appliances, like refrigerators. When I was a kid in rural Montana, we had a diesel generator as a backup, so I think it’s really cool that now you can use a battery pack charged with solar power for the same thing.)
Sustainable Clothing Gifts
Since I travel at least 50% of the time, most of the clothing I buy has to be travel-friendly (multi-purpose, wrinkle resistant, compact, and layerable), so you could call these travel gifts, as well!
4. Merino Travel Clothing (that doesn’t stink)
[Related: See my detailed review of the Unbound Merino women’s line (and one men’s item) for more.]
5. Stylish Shoes (made from recycled bottles)
These leopard print Rothy’s sneakers have become my go-to travel shoes. They’re comfortable, extremely walkable, machine-washable, and go with everything.
They make other styles, and lots of solid colors, too. But for me, these are a perfect touch of jazziness in my mostly solid, mix-and-match travel wardrobe.
6. Beautiful Cashmere Sweaters (made of recycled wool)
To me, a good fuzzy sweater feels like the ultimate Christmas gift.
Everlane has become my go-to for high quality, beautiful clothes that last – and that I can still afford. Because in addition to their great sustainability credentials, they’re actually reasonably priced.
(Everlane doesn’t use any virgin plastic. They use mostly organic cotton, and by 2023 will be using 100% certified organic cotton. And they have science-based climate targets.)
They have a great collection of alpaca and cashmere sweaters (men’s and women’s), and the ReCashmere line is made of recycled fibers.
Everlane’s Alpaca collection is slightly more affordable than the cashmere side. (And alpacas are gentler on the land than other herd animals, like sheep. They cause less erosion and soil degradation.)
I have their Alpaca Crew Sweater from last year and love it. It’s very soft and extremely warm. (Warmer than it seems like it would be for how light-weight it is).
They also make sneakers with recycled leather (in women’s and men’s sizes), and lots of recycled outerwear for men and women. And Everlane’s men’s and women’s jeans are a steal for high-quality organic cotton denim!
Everlane’s Black Friday Fund: Since 2014, Everlane has partnered with a different organization every year to share the profits of Black Friday with sustainability focused projects. Last year, they worked with the Rodale Institute, which helps US farmers transition their land to regenerative organic farming. For 2022, their partner is TreePeople, which plants shade trees in underfunded communities in LA (a huge help against extreme heat).
7. Fun Yoga Wear (made of recycled plastic bottles)
All synthetic fabrics (meaning almost all athletic wear) are essentially plastic. But Wolven uses fabric made from recycled bottles.
They’re also third-party certified carbon-neutral and a member of 1% For The Planet, among other certifications.
I don’t own any Wolven products yet (I have enough work-out wear). But I’ve tried on their leggings in a store, and the fabric felt hefty and high-quality.
More Sustainable Clothing Brands:
- Girlfriend Collective is another great option for athletic wear made of recycled materials. They make a wide range of sizes and colors, but no creative prints.
- Allbirds – famous for wool shoes, this B Corp also makes super soft undies, athletic wear and more from natural fibers
- Organic Basics – just as the name says, for men & women, from a B Corp and 1% For The Planet member. They even have a low-impact version of their website.
Sustainable Foodie Gifts
8. An Organic, Biodynamic Wine Club
In October this year, I visited a few of the most sustainable wineries in Napa Valley (article coming soon!), and Tres Sabores was my favorite – for the wines themselves, the experience of the place, and their ecological practices.
(Fun Fact: That picture above, where I’m wearing #4 and #5 from this list, was taken at Tres Sabores.)
It’s a woman-owned vineyard and winery, and one of the smallest in Napa Valley. It also uses the most impressive range of sustainable farming practices, including being organic, biodynamic, and using carbon farming practices that reduce the climate footprint of their fantastic wines.
We liked it so much we signed up for a year of their Wine Club membership. We also ordered some wines to be shipped home from other sustainable wineries we’d visited – and Tres Sabores is the only one that’s sent their shipments in entirely plastic-free padding and packaging.
9. Local Food & Dining Experiences
Comfort food and drinks are gifts that are unlikely to go to waste, and they’re often easy gifts to source locally. (Think: jam from the farmer’s market, a bottle of something from a local distillery, a bag of locally-roasted coffee, truffles from a chocolate shop, or a gift certificate to a local restaurant.)
I also love homemade food gifts (which reminds me that I need to publish my limoncello recipe)! In the meantime, you could give the gift of cooking someone a fantastic dish of pasta, or mixing them an Italian cocktail.
10. Organic Hot Chocolate & Plastic-Free Tea
EarthHero also carries a few good craft foodie gifts:
- Mexican hot chocolate from Oaxaca,
- an organic hot chocolate gift set,
- a holiday-themed, organic herbal tea gift set. (With tea bags made from corn starch, and thus microplastic-free. Yes, plastic tea bags are actually a common source of microplastics.)
Sustainable Beauty & Skincare Gifts
11. An Intro to Truly Refillable Skincare
Activist Skincare has become one of my favorite sustainable brands and a staple of my low-waste toiletry routine. I really just can’t say enough good things about this small, California-based company.
Their formulas are effective and well-rounded, but what’s really special is that all of their products come in glass packaging that’s designed to be REFILLED! (And their lightweight refill packets have 99% less carbon emissions than recycled glass packaging.)
You can can test the entire line with a two-week trial kit, which makes a great sustainable gift idea.
The kit, which is also refillable for travel, is an affordable way to find what works without committing to full-size products. (Especially when you want to give a thoughtful gift, but don’t know what skin type, sensitivities, or skin concerns your giftee has.)
And it comes in some of the most efficient, minimal, plastic-free packaging I’ve ever seen. (Activist refills are also available at a few local shops.)
You can save 50% on the Activist Skincare trial kit with the code TILTEDMAP50 .
12. A Plastic-free Razor (that won’t hurt anyone)
This is one of my favorite gift ideas on this list. For a luxurious-feeling personal care item that should last years, the original Leaf razor is a unisex winner.
The Leaf has a pivoting-head (just like a disposable cartridge razor), but you use it with steel safety razor blades. (Which are 100% plastic-free, and 100% recyclable.)
It’s perfect for anyone who likes the sustainable idea of a safety razor, but is a scared of the sharp fixed blade – as they should be!
In my experience, the Leaf has been infinitely easier to use than traditional safety razors, which took as much skin off my legs as hair. The Leaf doesn’t hurt me at all, and gives a great shave.
It’s also totally gender-neutral (as all razors should be) and comes in lots of beautiful colors.
Save 10% on any Leaf Shave products with the code KETTI10 .
[Related: Check out my Leaf Razor review for details.]
13. Fantastic Lip Balm (without the plastic tube)
There’s something people say in Italy when they give a small gift that I just love: “é un solo un pensiero.” It’s just a thought.
I love that. Not every gift has to be flashy and expensive, and this is a great example.
Everyone uses lip balm, so this is an affordable gift that sneakily introduces someone to the world of plastic-free toiletries. (A world I know really, really well.)
I’ve tried at least five different brands of lip balm in cardboard tubes, and these are my favorites. (I’ve been using mine for more than a year, and it’s nowhere near finished.)
They’re like a vegan, plastic-free heir to the Lip Smackers I used to love getting in my stockings as a kid. (A great sustainable gift for tweens or adults.)
I have the Orange Tangerine flavor, which is more grown-up than it sounds. The scent isn’t 100% fruity, because the formula contains a little rosemary extract. They also come in the prettiest cardboard packaging, which makes them my favorites for gifting, as well.
These are available from EarthHero. (Remember, use the code TILTEDMAP10 for 10% off anytime.)
More Great Plastic-Free Beauty Gifts:
- Axiology – plastic-free “balmies” – multi-use eye/lip/cheek color
- Izzy – refillable, zero-waste mascara that I LOVE. Save 10% with TILTEDMAP10
- River Organics – hydrating, creamy make-up made with lab-made mica. I use and love their lip balms, concealer and blush. Save 15% with TILTEDMAP15
(Mica mining is infamous for exploiting child labor, and mica is everywhere. We think of it as what gives shimmer to eyeshadow and lip color, but it’s in everything from toothpaste to mascara. It can be called “mica,” “potassium aluminum silicate,” or “CI 77019” on ingredient lists.)
14. Indulgent (but low-waste) Face Masks
If you want to give a pampering skincare gift that’s also travel-friendly and plastic-free, powdered face masks are a great option. (You just mix them with a little water to activate.)
Here are three great options I’ve tried, all from very small, vegan beauty skincare companies:
- My favorite is the cleanser and face mask from Dew Mighty. (Use less product, with more water, and it’s a cleanser. Or use more powder, to make a thicker paste, and leave it on longer – a treatment mask.) It’s one of my favorite zero-waste cleansers. And the best part? The metal tube is refillable, and refills come in easily recyclable cardboard.
- Another stocking-stuffer sized option: These super low-waste sample sizes of green and pink clay masks from Bell Mountain Naturals are great if you’re not sure what someone wants. (I got about 2 ½ uses out of each packet.)
These are available from EarthHero, where you can save 10% with the code TILTEDMAP10.
- Finally, this set of four face mask minis from Earth Harbor includes two powder masks, one peel, and one scrub/mask combo. I haven’t finished mine, but I’d say each is enough for at least 6-8 uses. (And I’ve become a fan of Earth Harbor this year – their charcoal face wash bar and mineral sunscreen are part of my everyday routine.)
Most gift sets come in some sort of plastic tray and/or box – but this one is all paperboard packaging! (But the Earth Harbor jars do have plastic lids, which is where Dew Mighty is in a league of its own with its completely plastic-free and refillable packaging.)
No plastic tray – a step in the right direction! (And not very common in gift sets. Not pictured: The outer box is plastic-free, too.)
15. Plastic-free Shampoo & Conditioner (for people who hate shampoo bars)
I have two options here: First are the bars, because I’ll probably never stop talking about The Earthling Co.
They check all the sustainability boxes, and I’ve tried almost all of their products and haven’t found any I didn’t like – from dish soap to face wash. (But their shampoo and conditioner bars are in a class of their own, after testing lots of other brands.)
Honestly, these bars are an easy win, and I haven’t found anyone who wants their plastic shampoo bottles back after trying them.
Second though, for people who really want something else, are the excellent concentrated, waterless shampoo and conditioner from Everist.
Both lather beautifully, and leave your hair looking shiny.
Earthling Co. bars come in lots of scents, including unscented. (My favorites are the Citrus Sun and Vanilla Coconut. And right now, they have limited-edition winter scents – Woodland Berry and Vanilla Chai.)
For now, all Everist products are scented – a light, delicious citrus scent.
These links automatically save you 15% on anything from The Earthling Co.! (No discount code required. 15% off will show up in your cart.) For Everist, you can save 10% with the discount code TILTEDMAP10 .
Sustainable Gifts for the Home (& Pets)
16. Soft, Organic, Top-Quality Bedding
I’ve looked for companies that match Avocado’s impressive sustainability certifications and haven’t found any that measure up. They’re a B Corp, carbon negative, a member of 1% For The Planet, and GOTS certified for organic cotton, linen, and hemp.
We’ve had the 600-thread-count version of their organic cotton sheets for about a year now, and they’re fantastic. They continue to get softer with use. (We noticed some pilling after a few months, but it’s gone away with additional washes, which, as I learned from Unbound Merino, is a normal process for natural fibers.)
17. Household Goods Made of Recycled Chopsticks
One of the main roadblocks to better recycling is that recycled materials often don’t always have a high market value. So the more stuff we can make with recycled materials, the higher that value will be, and the greater the motivation to collect and recycle materials – all sorts of materials.
I haven’t tried these, but I think the concept of recycling single-use chopsticks into something useful is unique and ingenious.
They’re available from EarthHero, where you can save 10% with the code TILTEDMAP10.
18. Climate-Friendly Dog Food for Your Best Friend
This is a shocking stat: If dogs and cats in the US had their own separate country, that country would be the 5th biggest meat consumer in the world.
So that’s what makes Virginia-based Chippin unique. Their food and treats are made using 80% fewer resources (including land, water and carbon emissions) than normal dog food. Plus, the company is plastic-neutral and has carbon-neutral shipping through offsets.
The protein comes from crickets, spirulina and silver carp (an invasive species in North America, which they source from a fishery in Kentucky. And as the Washington Post explained, dogs don’t actually need to eat chicken and beef.)
I don’t have a dog to test Chippin on, but I think they’re a great gift idea for a dog-owner with an interest in sustainability.
You can try Chippin with 30% off your first order with the discount code MAP30 .
Impact-Focused Marketplaces for More Sustainable Gift Ideas
19. Books – that aren’t from Amazon!
Bookshop is my favorite Amazon alternative for new books. They’re unique because they share a portion of sales with local independent, bookstores, and are also a certified B Corp.
You can search their selection here:
For new and used books, Better World Books is my top choice.
In addition to reselling books, they donate them, recycle what can’t be used, and raise funds for libraries and literacy programs.
[Related: You can also shop my favorite food books and travel books on the Tilted Map Bookshop Storefront! I reviewed most of those in my post about traveling vicariously through nonfiction.]
20. Sustainable gift shopping options, for when you just want to browse.
Novica feels much more artsy-craftsy, with items (many Fair Trade certified) made by artisans in developing countries. (You can even shop by region of origin.) They have a massive selection, and are partners with National Geographic and Intrepid Travel (one of my favorite sustainable travel companies).
I hope these sustainable gift ideas give you some inspiration, if you need it! Happy holidays and happy new year, everyone! 🙂
Save this gift guide for later on Pinterest!
For even more ideas, check out my other sustainable product reviews:
- Leaf razor review (compared with three other safety razors)
- My favorite shampoo & conditioner bars
- Lots of other shampoo & conditioner bars I’ve tested
- An alternative for anyone who REALLY can’t get on board with shampoo bars
- Thinx period underwear
- My full less-waste toiletry routine (that’s also travel-friendly)
- Toothpaste tablets (some great, some never-again)
- LastObject: Reusable Q-tips, cotton pads & tissues – and tips on how to avoid greenwashing (AKA fake-sustainable companies)
- Cleaning & laundry products, sans plastic